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Intelligence cloud over Huawei

BSNL and MTNL are in a spot over using Chinese equipment to run their networks. Intelligence agencies are concerned over the issue, with fears originating in a recent report that British intelligence officials have warned their government that gear made by China’s Huawei and deployed by BT may be a security threat. Manoj Gairola reports.

business Updated: Apr 24, 2009 00:05 IST
Manoj Gairola

State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) are in a spot over using Chinese equipment to run their networks.

Intelligence agencies are concerned over the issue, with fears originating in a recent report that British intelligence officials have warned their government that gear made by China’s Huawei and deployed by BT, the former British Telecom, may be a security threat.

Informed sources said Indian intelligence officials have discussed the issue with other ministries including the External Affairs and Communications Ministries.

British agents have expressed worries – linked to diplomatic unease with Beijing – that Huawei equipment increase vulnerability to Chinese “cyber warware” attacks that can be used to halt critical services like power and water supplies, besides telecommunications.

The government’s Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) have on earlier occasions expressed similar concerns, and also suggested that Huawei had links with the Chinese army.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has also opposed Huawei officially, saying that the company had links with the Chinese Army.

Huawei, however, refutes the charges. “Our sustainable growth is based on our customers' continued recognition and confidence in the security and quality of our products and services,” said a spokesperson of Huawei in a written reply to Hindustan times.

“We have a proven track record of providing secure products and solutions to our customers and we adhere to stringent customer procurement and product security standards.”

“Huawei is a 100% privately held global company owned entirely by its employees. No government or government-linked-organizations have any ownership stake in the company,” said the Huawei spokesperson.

Huawei is providing GSM equipment to BSNL in South zone in a tie up with ITI. It also provides wireline and broadband equipment. Its customers include private players like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Comm and Tata Teleservices.